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Mildred Fahlen Taxer ’42

September 11, 2020, in Portland, of natural causes.

A lifelong Portland resident, Mildred often said, “There is nowhere any better than right here!” Her father, Nels, was a tailor who had come to Portland from Sweden, and her mother was the daughter of Swedish immigrants. After attending Ainsworth Elementary School and Lincoln High School, Mildred followed her sister, Ethel Noble ’40, to Reed. The college, as she noted, “was highly touted in high school.” It was also the Great Depression and economically advantageous to live at home.

She got a one-year scholarship at Reed for $100; tuition for the whole year was $250. An advertising pamphlet of the time listed the expenses for the college. “They said that with a $75 allowance for incidentals, $1,000 would adequately handle a year at Reed,” she recalled.

Mildred planned to go into math, but struggled mightily with differential equations. “I passed the course,” she said, “but made up my mind I was not a math major. I took a statistics course in psych, and decided I would be a psych major.”

Her adviser, Prof. Edward Octavius Sisson [philosophy 1911–43], invited his students to his house for a meeting. “He broke the ice by telling about his first adventure in entertaining on campus,” Mildred recalled. “He had invited all of these gentlemen to sit around the table and have a soup dinner. His wife brought the soup in and he ladled it up. When he got about three-quarters of the way around the table he said to his wife, ‘We need more soup,’ and she said ‘Well, that’s it.’ So, he said, ‘Pass them back, boys. Redeal.’ He was a wonderfully warm person.”

She fondly recollected other professors. “Barry Cerf [English 1921–48] always reminded me of a Greek god,” she said. “He stood up at the podium in the chapel and there was a halo of light about him that made him appear to be a vision. F.L. [Frank Loxley] Griffin [math 1911–56] was very good. He would say to me, ‘Even if you don’t pass this exam, your marks will carry you through.’”

Mildred wrote her thesis, “An Analysis of 1600 Service Ratings,” with Prof. William (Monte) Griffith [psychology 1926–54] advising. She remembered him chuckling and admonishing distractors at his Psych 21 lecture to hire their own hall.

Mildred believed that Reed’s system of not providing grades to students unless requested fostered more equality among students. “You were not elevated or downgraded because of your grade value,” she said.

The day after commencement, she reported to the City of Portland Civil Service Commission, where she worked for seven years, crediting the statistics class of Prof. William Stewart [economics 1925–49] and Griffith’s Tests and Measurements course in preparing her for the job. In 1949, she married Milton Taxer, a civil engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. With the birth of their three sons, her role changed to that of homemaker.

She continued to consult in the civil service testing department, was active in the First Unitarian Church of Portland, and, along with her sister, Ethel, was active in the Reed College Alumni Association, the Foster-Scholz Club, and the League of Women Voters. Mildred led many local community efforts to effect positive change, including her petition drive to convince the city to construct lighted tennis courts in Gabriel Park to provide a positive experience for youth and to reduce crime in the park. She kept active swimming, gardening, and biking.

“Reed’s emphasis on excellence, concern for individual development, and preservation of a truly free marketplace of ideas have been of great worth to me,” Mildred said. “The Reed experience, though rigorous, provided a great foundation for life. Education is something that nobody can ever take away from you. You can lose the data and forget a lot, but the means of obtaining information remains with you.”

After a brief illness, Mildred passed away at the age of 100. She is survived by her three sons, Gordon, Mark, and Eric.

Appeared in Reed magazine: March 2021

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